The Artful Dodger

The Artful Dodger

Dickens reimagined in this playful, irreverent off-shoot with Oliver Twist’s grown-up former friend

7.5

TV Show

Australia
English
Crime, Drama
2023
JEFFREY WALKER
Damon Herriman, David Thewlis, Maia Mitchell

TLDR

Whoever Thomas Brodie-Sangster's agent is... Thank you.

What it's about

After being transported to Australia for pickpocketing, Jack Dawkins in the 1850s is a respected young surgeon. However, his old mentor Fagin resurfaces, dragging him back to his pickpocketing ways, but also into a connection with the governor’s daughter.

The take

The Artful Dodger’s leads might literally come from a Charles Dickens novel, but there’s something more playful about the way it deals with its historical social issues. Where Oliver Twist would change his fortune with fairytale-like goodness, former pickpocket Jack Dawkins aims to carve it out through quick amputations, which give him some status, though no wealth, and gambling bets, which risks his limbs. While the narrative isn’t as complex as the social criticism Dickens is known for, the series is undeniably entertaining with its novel approach, even if it pokes fun a little too often at the actual horrific hygiene practices of the 1800s.

What stands out

The Artful Dodger might not have the gravitas as Oliver Twist, but it makes some clever decisions with the character they’ve stolen. Jack Dawkins was a lying thief, yes, but he was a child, taken advantage of by adult criminals, and punished for it. He grew up too fast in London, but Australia gave him a chance for status through skills in surgery. In another person’s hands, this rendition of Dawkins could have felt like amateur fanfic, but Thomas Brodie-Sangster brings that mix of quick-witted brashness he displayed in The Queen’s Gambit and the precocious sweetness older viewers would remember from his child actor days. He’s truly the best choice for the Artful Dodger.

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